The Woman Most Likely to... by Jennifer Greene
(Avon, $6.99, PG-13) ISBN: 0-380-81972-4
I have long wondered why category author Jennifer Greene never moved into single titles. Long recognized as one of the best writers of short contemporary fiction, I thought that she would be a natural to try the longer format. Well, it has finally happened and I am glad to report that The Woman Most Likely To... has all the qualities we have come to expect from this author: fully developed characters, a a well crafted plot, and not one but two lovely romances.

The Woman Most Likely To... is a “second chance at love” tale. When they were in high school, Susan Sinclair and Jon Laker fell in love. Despite the differences in their social status - he was the scion of wealth and privilege while she was the daughter of a struggling farmer - they were convinced that theirs was true love. Then, disaster struck; Susan got pregnant.

Jon wanted them to get married; he was sure they could make it. Susan, whose unhappy parents had been forced into marriage by an unplanned pregnancy, was less sanguine. As her class’s “girl most likely to succeed,” she had seen education as the way to escape the confines of Copper Creek, Michigan. Marrying Jon would have meant giving up her dreams of college for a risky teenage marriage. So she left town, had her baby, and worked her way through college. Susan had raised her daughter Becca as a single parent, although Jon had provided support and remained involved in Becca’s life. She had achieved professional and financial success, even if her career is currently facing some unforeseen bumps.

A frantic call from Becca brings her back to Copper Creek and forces her to face her past and her future.

Becca had fled to her widowed grandmother’s home when she faced personal problems. She discovers that her once staid and repressed grandmother has changed dramatically. After over thirty-five years of an unhappy marriage, Lydia Sinclair has discovered fun, men and orgasms. Becca, convinced that Lydia has lost it, calls her mother. After all, Susan had always been the family’s problem solver and both Lydia and Becca clearly have problems. Susan immediately comes to the rescue, only to realize that she too has problems.

Susan discovers that Becca seems to be repeating her and her mother’s pattern. She too faces an unplanned and unwelcome pregnancy. As she and Jon deal with their daughter’s dilemma, they find themselves dealing with their own relationship and the feelings they have buried for over twenty years.

As always, Greene creates real characters with realistic problems. Neither Susan nor Jon has ever gotten over their first love. Neither has ever been able to establish another relationship. Both have to come to terms with the fears and feelings that shaped their actions all those years ago. Greene portrays their growing mutual understanding with a sure touch.

Lydia and Becca, while theoretically secondary characters, are as fully developed as the hero and heroine. All three women come to realize that the past has tremendous power to shape human actions, but also discover that only by confronting that past can its hold be broken.

The Woman Most Likely To... straddles the boundary between romance and women’s fiction. Yes, it hews to the conventions of romance, but it also offers a fascinating portrait of relations between mothers and daughters and between the past and the present. Jennifer Greene’s single title debut does not disappoint. The Woman Most Likely To... is contemporary romance at its best.

--Jean Mason

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